Image credit: Getty/Jamie Squire.
Many Twitch streamers enjoy sharing details about their personal lives as they game. But even though his username is mightymouseufc125, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson would rather not chat on stream about his career as the flyweight champion of the UFC.
"I think a lot of the fans get mad at me [for not talking about fights], but at the end of the day, I'm a human being," Johnson said. "When a person thinks about fighting and makes fighting their world, when they lose or things don't go the way they wanted, it all comes crashing down."
"For me, I have my family, my stream, my community. I'm building something out of a passion I have, and we all share that same passion, which is video games. So the last thing I want to do is talk about fighting."
Johnson treats streaming video games on Twitch as a second career — one he hopes he can transition into his main gig after he retires from fighting in "five or six" years.
It might seem weird that Johnson's worrying about his financial future while sitting atop a throne made of UFC gold, but MMA is an especially gruelling sport that tends to chew up its legends and spit them out more broken than most. Put another way, he's not expecting any favours.
"It's time to start working on other things so that when I'm done fighting, I can be a great caster in H1Z1 or PUBG or Street Fighter or anything, really," he said in a phone interview last week. "Because when my career is over, the UFC is gonna say, 'Thanks for all your years of entertainment. Good job.' That's it."
Building his Twitch presence around the novelty of being an MMA fighter, then, wouldn't make much sense, because Johnson won't always be one. Johnson has brought up the topic with his viewers before, but it always ended up devolving into roundabout arguments over who should have won certain fights.
So while he said he has no problem with folks in his chat going into full fight nerd mode every once in a while, he wants no part of it.
Streaming is, however, good motivation for Johnson to keep himself safe during fights. Playing games for an audience is a gig that requires a sharp, observant mind — something a procession of concussions will knock right out of you.
Johnson said that he's been in fights where he swung like a wildman, but he ate tons of damage, and his coach told him it was a fistfight, not martial arts.
"The name of the game is hit, not to be hit," Johnson said, adding that he wants to create a fighting style where he "doesn't get hit, and it's exciting." That way, he'll still be able to talk the talk when he's streaming, even if he can't walk the walk to the cage so well anymore.
Still, though, it's not always easy to separate Johnson the man from Mighty Mouse the fighter. Johnson regularly streams with other fighters like former UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, because he knows that fight fans eat that kind of stuff up.
Video games even inspire some of the moves he pulls off in the octagon, he said, comparing the way he creatively composes real-life combos with the way he approaches games like Marvel vs Capcom and Tekken.
"It's up to you to go out there and make up a combo that flows well and doesn't drop so that when you're in a competition, you maximise your damage," he said.
In the past, he'd do things like stream before a fight, go win, and then resume streaming before jaunting off to an afterparty. These days, though, he's tapered that off: "I don't stream during fight week anymore," he said.
"When I fight, I go into a dark place where I'm focused on beating my opponents," Johnson explained. "How can I break them down? Basically, all I'm focused on is how to hurt the human body."
Instead of that dark place, Johnson wants his streams to be focused on sharing a more positive side of himself, the one that's passionate about video games. "Mixed martial arts is the last thing on my totem pole [when I stream]," he said.
"If I want to build a community on mixed martial arts, then I'd be focusing more on making MMA videos, demonstrations, tutorials on how to do things. I'm not about that. For me, I want to build something that I'm passionate about. That's video games."
"I'm passionate about MMA too, but it's different."